Managing a Disastrous Presentation or Speech – What to do When Things Go Wrong During a Speech

Most people experience some degree of apprehension when speaking in public. After all, sometimes things do go wrong, leaving both the presenter and the presentation in a precarious position. Yet public speaking is an es-sential skill in today’s business environment. So is being able to mitigate or move gracefully through mishaps and keep the attention where it belongs – on your presentation, not you.

The first way to ward off a disastrous appearance is to avoid obvious reasons speeches bomb. They include:

  1. Lack of preparation
  2. Lack of skill or technique
  3. Lack of expertise on the subject matter
  4. Technical difficulties or unforeseen circumstances such as poor attendance, weather conditions, tardiness, etc.
  5. Illness or sudden malaise

Being unaware of the dynamics at play on a stage. Those all can be handled ahead of time. What should you do if things head south while a speech or presentation is underway? The first thing is recognizing things do go awry. As much as it may sound cliché and simplistic, it is precisely because things happen on our watch that we can do something about them.

Essential to recovering from a disastrous speech is learning to manage the moment as it unfurls or in the imme-diate aftermath. Here, then, are some ways to maintain some control of the situation.

  • Recognize it’s human to become mildly tense, shy or anxious. Mistakes are normal, so learn to tolerate and even welcome them. When a speaker makes a simple and harmless mistake – such as mispronouncing a name – he or she mustn’t draw attention to it excessively. Simply “move on.” It demonstrates professionalism.
  • Remember that you are an expert, not a martyr. No one ever perishes from publicspeakingosis, though a major gaffe may seem mortifying at the time. Still, one way to avoid the fear of “dying on stage” is to remember: Your credibility on a subject comes just as much from what you believe about yourself as it does what you accurately convey on a topic. Project confidence, but remember that a little humility goes a long way as well.
  • Keep in mind public speaking borrows from theatrical convention. A speaker willingly gets in front of an audience and delivers rehearsed lines. As such, it’s a voluntary act, created for a stage much like an actor inter-nalizes a script and then replays it with conviction for dramatic effect. Your content might be critically serious but the delivery is theatrical. You are an actor playing to an audience and must become accountable at that level. Remember: You did not wake up on that stage unaware, you chose to be there. Therefore, remembering why you are committing to speak can greatly reduce some of the inevitable nervousness and subsequent mistakes.
  • A speaker is in charge of all aspects of a presentation, including mishaps. Think of the notion of the captain of a ship. A speaker is the captain. Welcome the role rather than shy away from it.
  • Audiences are “actively passive.” It is precisely because an audience is aware of what goes on that the speaker must be upfront about what is going wrong. Assume your audience is always aware, even if they say nothing. So, the first thing to do is to acknowledge mishaps as they occur, maybe even ahead of time if you smell a disaster brewing. The situation will only be made worse if you try to hide it. For instance, if I drop my glass of water and then proceed to pretend it didn’t happen, I have robbed myself of my audience’s focus. Now everyone is thinking about the glass of water and why I pretended it didn’t hap-pen.
  • Use humor to demonstrate that you are human and that you have dealt with similar situations in the past – especially if it is true! If it isn’t make a joke out of the situation and demonstrate your “lighter” side!
  • Treat your audience as a partner. Respect them by confirming that what they just witnessed did hap-pen and that you are still in charge of the situation. Stay present. Don’t act out a character in your pres-entations unless you are damn sure of what you are doing and have tested it before. For instance you may have been told to use humor and crack jokes, but it’s really not your thing. In other words leave act-ing to actors and instead “be yourself.” Dazzle them with what is genuine about you not with what is in-authentic. If I’m in the middle of an “pretend act” that I’m not too confident in or rehearsed with, when something outside of my control happens I will feel and look like a fool.
  • Avoid “catering” to an audience, or trying to draw them in artificially. They will turn their backs on you. You cannot make an audience like you or like what you are presenting to them. Often when something goes wrong or not as well as planned, we turn on the “pleasing” act. We find ourselves compensating. We smile when we don’t feel like it. We move about when we should stay still. We lose our sense of self. Stick to your program. You can’t win’em all! If a presentation is not well researched, prepared or rehearsed, be up front and tell your audience. You will win points by being straight. Audiences are passive but not necessarily stupid.
  • Be watchful of your mood or attitude, especially if something goes wrong. You may wish for an error-free speech, but what if it doesn’t go so smoothly? Try not to be seduced by negative feelings, such as anger, that can somehow be projected out to the audience. An attitude results from something; it isn’t organic. It’s some-times a good reminder that embracing a moment’s bad mood can (backwardly) spell DOOM.
  • If you are nervous to an extreme point, stop! Collect yourself by breathing deeply two or three times and stay in your body. In a worse case scenario, take the audience in confidence and reassure them that it will pass or that it will only take you a moment to recover. Know that at that point they are worried about you. Apologize authentically. Remember that an audience wants you to succeed.
  • Understand physiological and psychological reactions to nervousness. Your body responds to stress in the same way it responds to imminent physical danger. The nervous system produces chemicals that flood your bloodstream. This can feel wonderful or it can leave you exhausted. Accept that nerves are part of the package.
  • Remember that self-consciousness comes from two sources: (1) not trusting how we feel and (2) not committing to what we are doing physically and emotionally. Try not to catch yourself thinking more about your actions instead of just doing them. Actions must be carried to completion. If they aren’t, the speaker should explain why an action was aborted, interrupted or changed to serve another purpose.
  • When in doubt, stand still and do nothing. Breathe. Smile. Yeah, it’s that easy. o Make visual and tactual contact with the room and items in it, such as lights, objects, furniture, people, and so on. It anchors our focus in the physical world, which has the grounding effect to help avoid nervousness and consequently potential mistakes.
  • Beware of apologizing, self-pity, mocking, preaching and demeaning as visible means of communication. It usually spells disaster. The same applies to overt or covert anger towards someone. These are traps and/or very poor choices. Sometimes a speaker simply does not realize that his or her performance contains these forms of expression. He or she should become aware of the devastating affect it has on an audience. The only exceptions naturally are when the speaker who apologizes, explains or views himself as a victim does so pur-posely to illustrate, entertain or make a point.

Copyright © 2007 Speakers & Artists International, Inc.

What Can Be Negotiated?

As a professional negotiator, who for more than three decades has negotiated hundreds of hotel and venue contracts, as well as numerous business contracts of a variety of different types, I have often been asked what can one negotiate, and why is negotiating meaningful. While this would require a far more extensive discussion to fully explore, the simple answer is that almost everything is, in fact negotiable (particularly under the correct set of circumstances and conditions), and that quality negotiations are very often the difference between a successful or less satisfying result. While this is true regarding many different aspects of our lives and activities, it is often most readily obvious when it comes to events.

1. In my experience, I have found that a quality, professional negotiator will save an organization a significant amount of time, aggravation and wasted resources. When negotiations are done correctly, not only should an organization save far more money than what they are paying for the negotiator’s services, but they should be able to count on the professional to make a series of meaningful recommendations that should provide more value, enhance marketing efforts, and locate additional areas of significant efficiencies. My personal policy is that I guarantee my clients a savings that will exceed the fee I charge by a significant percentage.

2. Many individuals negotiate, but only a quality professional negotiator will get an optimum deal made. Great negotiations come from had work and effort, an enormous amount of homework and research, emphasis on developing relationships based on mutual respect and integrity, attention to details, needs analysis, and knowing what can be asked for, and what cannot. I equate it to someone that wants to purchase a home. If someone really wants a house, he must know what other comparable properties go for, and then, whether he wants to be in a position to perhaps receive and entertain a counter – offer. If someone is only willing to pay a particular figure with no flexibility, then little strategy is needed. But, when someone wants the house and is somewhat flexible, he must be certain that his offer balances his ability to get a great deal, with a realistic possibility of at least receiving a counter – offer. If the offer is too little, the seller may merely consider it not to be serious, or even worse, insulting. That’s why an essential duty of a professional realtor is to be a quality negotiator. If someone is unrealistic in demands when negotiating with a hotel, the long term result is generally less than optimal.

Not everyone is a great negotiator. Not even every professional negotiator is. Before hiring a negotiator, you must feel conformance and confident in his abilities and performance. Great negotiators ask questions, but spend far more time listening than talking.

Simple Steps To Improve A PowerPoint Presentation

There are interesting ideas for an effective PowerPoint presentation. These ideas will make your presentations have a bigger impact. Your message will be communicated more clearly and will impress your listeners making your ideas stay in their memories. The people attending your exhibition will focus on what you are doing and this will make your message clearer and more memorable.

Use graphics, visuals and pictures to make your slide show more lively. Research has proven that people remember information better when it is communicated visually. Use the insert menu and follow the directions for inserting a picture from a file. It is really quite easy to add pictures to your presentation.

Animations will capture the audience’s attention and their imagination. Using an animation will keep people’s attention from drifting off. Animations are the type of finishing touch that adds a professional style. You have a better chance of making an impression when you use animations.

When your presentation is a software application training session the use of computer screen shots is a simple but effective technique. Screen shots will simulate the feel of actually operating the software application. Your participants are familiar with the layout of standard computer screens. This familiarity will make them feel comfortable which will make them more receptive to your teaching.

Large amounts of simple text and particularly bullet points are guaranteed to make your participants drift away. Why give a presentation if you are going to just display text. You might as well just email the participants a text document that they can read on their own time. You need to make a lasting impression on your participants. To do that, you must capture their attention and their focus. Graphics, pictures and animations will do that but plain old text will not.

To get your points across you will have to have your participants attention from the very start of your presentation. In fact, your introduction is the most important part of your presentation. If you do not capture and hold the audience’s attention from the beginning it will be almost impossible to get it later on. For this reason, work hard on creating a good introduction that piques the participants curiosity and sparks their imagination. A little bit of humour can help but do not over do it with jokes. Asking the participants interesting questions will make them a part of the presentation. Asking them questions is a good technique for holding their attention and engaging the participants.

Be careful not to speak in a drone like voice. Modulate your voice so you do not bore people. You do not want to sound as if you are reading from a script. Doing that can lull your listeners to sleep. Speak as if you are just talking to a friend. Never read a script off of index cards. Practice your presentation until you can do smoothly without reading from any notes.

Let us review these ideas for giving an effective PowerPoint presentation. Capture the audience’s attention with pictures and animations. Stay away from a lot of text and things like bullet points. Audiences are bored by these and their attention will wander. Prepare an interesting provocative introduction that will grab the attention of your audience. Use questions to engage the audience and to get them curious. Modulate your voice so that your audience does not become bored or fall asleep on you. Following these simple tips will improve your communications. Your audience will stay engaged and will enjoy your presentation. A well prepared presentation using these tips will show true results.